1. The scientific consensus remains solid
Suzanne Goldenberg in The Guardian has the story. A study led by John Cook of Skeptical Science fame considered the work of some 29,000 scientists published in 11,994 academic papers between 1991 and 2011.
Of the 4,000-plus papers that took a position on the causes of climate change only 0.7% or 83 of those thousands of academic articles, disputed the scientific consensus that climate change is the result of human activity, with the view of the remaining 2.2% unclear.
The survey found that the consensus has grown slowly over time, and reached about 98% in 2011.
Of the papers which specifically examine the contributors to global warming, they virtually all conclude that humans are the dominant cause over the past 50 to 100 years.
2. Have the climate sceptics nevertheless won?
Both Martin Wolf of the Financial Times and James Hansen say the climate ssceptics have won because of global inaction. But Roger Pielke Jr is definite:
the battle over public opinion on climate change has long been over – it has been won, decisively in fact, by those favoring action.
Countering sceptics with facts doesn’t work. Indeed, he says, “there is reason to believe that the focus of attention by climate campaigners on sceptics actually works against effective action.” (Emphasis added.)
Pielke evokes Walter Lippmann who recognised that:
uniformity of perspective was not necessary for action to take place in democracies. He explained that the goal of politics is not to make everyone think alike, but to help people who think differently to act alike.
The problem is that people think climate action means pain. Martin Wolf calls for “a politically sellable vision of a prosperous low-carbon economy” as a necessary though not sufficient condition.
A necessary condition? Moral minnows!
3. Cultural cognition of inconvenient science
Contra Martin Wolf and Roger Pielke Jr above, I would have thought that whether we took action on climate would have been decided by risk. Denialists and sceptics have to be 100% sure that the scientific consensus is wrong, 100% not 99.9%, otherwise the risks demand that we act. That’s rational.
But, no, it seems political beliefs, values and social pressure determine cognition of science and even assessment of risk.
Pielke cites studies published in 2011 by Dan Kahan of Yale Law School and colleagues. Their study Cultural cognition of scientific consensus is paywalled, but downloadable here. Read the article Culture splits climate views, not science smarts.
The argument is quite complex, but they identify two broad cultural predispositions, the ‘hierarchical individualist’ and the ‘egalitarian communitarian’. Inter alia this is what they found:
I was under the impression that Kahan and co were saying the there is something intrinsic in the ‘hierarchical-individualistic’ cultural predisposition which was more likely to see climate science as divided. Kahan is also emphasising that social pressure is a factor. Increased scientific literacy enables greater rationalisation of previously held beliefs.
They suggest that communicators have to attend to cultural as well as scientific meaning and other techniques outlined in section 5.3 (p32).
They don’t contemplate, however, that one of these value spectrums may be incompatible with a sustainable planet and how one might go about changing they underlying value position.
4. Digging further on cultural cognition vs scientific comprehension
as members of the public become more science literate and numerate … individuals belonging to opposing cultural groups become even more divided on the risks that climate change poses.
The results are conveyed graphically thus:
CCT = cultural cognition thesis and SCT = science comprehension thesis.
I don’t think Kaplan is saying that the ‘egalitarian communitarian’ people are better in responding to scientific evidence. Kaplan’s not taking a position on who is right. It just happens that the ‘hierarchical individualist’ mob are substantively wrong.
They don’t examine whether there is a critical point in scientific understanding, where the cherry picking stops and true understanding takes over. In any case their studies do show us as not being particularly rational in decision making.
This is a bit astonishing:
our findings could be viewed as evidence of how remarkably well equipped ordinary individuals are to discern which stances toward scientific information secure their personal interests.
What they are saying here is that social inclusion in their group is substantively more important to the individual’s best interest than the trivial effect any personal climate change action could have on their personal well-being.
5. Belief in free market economics predicts rejection of science
While we are at it, check out this story.
A strong belief in a hands off approach to economics is tightly linked to the rejection of scientific facts such as climate change, according to research published in Psychological Science in late March.
Moreover the same people tended to reject that HIV causes AIDS or that tobacco smoking causes lung cancer.
Those who rejected climate change appeared to be more accepting of conspiracy theories in general. Belief that the moon landing was actually staged on Earth, that the government allowed the 9/11 terrorist attacks occur so they could invade the Middle East, and other conspiracy theories predicted rejection of climate change.
Stephan Lewandowsky strikes again!
6. Garnaut recommends 17% target
Currently the Climate Change Authority, chaired be Bernie Fraser, is reviewing our CO2 reduction targets. I seems Garnaut is proposing a 17% reduction, that’s from 2000. Why? Because we can and because other countries, notably the US, are increasing their level of ambition. This may be news to Abbott’s mob, more likely they are choosing to ignore it.
The US are doing it without a carbon price. In Europe too it looks possible that they will increase their targets because of progress made, because others are acting and because they do not rely on the carbon price to do the work.
Of course the institutional structure supporting the Clean Energy Future package will be swept away by Abbott’s mob.
7. Arctic ocean acidifying
The Arctic Ocean is acidifying much more rapidly than previously thought.
The Arctic Ocean is particularly vulnerable to acidification due to the rivers that flow into it, each carrying growing amounts of carbon runoffs every year.
Scientists warned that the acidification of the Arctic Ocean has the potential to affect marine life in profound and as-yet-unknown ways, endangering the ecosystem by threatening its smallest components.
The situation is growing worse each year.
“Continued rapid change is a certainty,” AMAP study author Richard Bellerby told the BBC. “We have already passed critical thresholds. Even if we stop emissions now, acidification will last tens of thousands of years. It is a very big experiment.”
8. Algae found under the Arctic ice
Algae normally grows at the edge of the retreating ice and to some extent in open water in the Arctic. It has now been found growing plentifully under the first year ice with melt pools on the surface. Light is able to penetrate the ice allowing photosynthesis while UV is inhibited. Scientists are concerned that the ecological balance is being changed. For example, when the ice melts the algae sinks to the ocean floor, acting as a carbon sink. But bacteria feast on the algae, depleting the oxygen available to the sea floor community.
Scientists don’t know whether this phenomenon will continue, but:
If it continues proliferous growth, this particular kind of algae may deplete the nutrients available to the point that it starves itself, and other organisms. That threatens the food chain based around plankton, which support fish, seals, birds, whales, and even humans. Meanwhile heightened anoxic conditions could vastly alter the seabed, threatening clams and crustaceans, meaning in turn a threat to walruses and other creatures which feed on them.